April 2023 Bookclub: The Oysterville Sewing Circle

A little behind my usual posting schedule for no other reason than it took me a little bit more time than usual to sit down with my thoughts and feelings on this book. For starters, I think the Oysterville Sewing Circle was an enjoyable read that took a birds-eye view on some heavy topics such as abuse, overdose, and how far friendship extends. These topics are uncomfortable to think about and even more uncomfortable for those actually living through them, but I think it’s important for those of us not living through them to be made uncomfortable in a safe way so that we can be more empathetic towards those who are living through them. Susan Wiggs did a good job of providing us with just enough of the heavy content that we were able to think about them without overwhelming us.

This is a difficult thing to balance, especially because the topics were driving forces of the plot. If you take away the abuse and the drugs, there would not have been enough disruption in Caroline’s life to force her to think about her life and how she wants to live it. More importantly, Caroline sat in the disruption. She was constantly wondering whether or not she could have done more for her friend and whether or not she was doing enough for the children suddenly being thrust into her care. There were many areas of this book that my heart felt tight and I wished I could do something.

The flip side of this is that the depth of the story outside of those plot movers was a little shallow and predictable. In true romance novel form, we knew that Caroline would end up with a guy in the end, especially one she had loved since childhood. I actually didn’t like this because of the way it went down. Though respectful, I didn’t like that in order for her to be with the love of her life he had to realize his marriage wasn’t working. Also, I think it would have been more powerful if she had been able to find community and skip the romance together. Without the falling in love piece of this story, Caroline would have helped us learn what family can look like and how that view is different from the normal family model.

All in all, I never hit a point in this book where I thought about abandoning it. Now that it’s over, I feel a little unsatisfied and don’t have a clear answer as to what was missing.

I’m working through the final books in the Wheel of Time series, my hold for book thirteen literally just came in, and feel the need to have some of the darkness in my reading have a quick resolution. The Hazel Wood won a Goodreads Choice Award in 2018 for best young adult fantasy and science fiction and promises to scratch that itch, so let’s give that a try for our May book club.

Cover art for The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away-by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

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